It is a safe assumption that we who live here choose to live here because we love winter, nature, snow and recreational opportunities. It's just as safe to assume that this is true of the visitors that we cater to and depend on. By now, most of us and most of our visitors know that the biggest threat to these things we love is ourselves and our actions. If you "get" climate change, you understand deep in your consciousness that you have to make some changes. If you don't "get it," then you are responsible for reading and listening, because each and every one of us has to take a role in changing what we do. Not believing is no longer an excuse nor is it acceptable.
Some will say that their work or business depends on driving, and possibly we are all trying to cut down on automobile use and size, as well as on our home energy drain. Many of us however are having a very difficult time understanding the blatant use of motorized pollution for pleasure transport in the backcountry, to say nothing of the buying of Ford 350s and their cousins to transport these sleds and ATVs around. We understand that sledding is appealing, exciting, challenging and a mechanism to get you into the backcountry for skiing and riding. But does it make sense to an earth threatened by global climate change, caused by our carbon fuel addiction, to engage in an activity that has such high fuel consumption?
According to engine data from the California Air Resources Board, seven hours of two-stroke engine use produces more smog-forming pollution than a modern car creates in over 100,000 miles. Snowmobiles create up to 1,000 times more carbon monoxide pollution than a typical car. (Carbon monoxide is 14 times worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.) Snowmobiles discharge a staggering one-third of their fuel unburned out their tailpipe. Every winter, snowmobiles dump more than 100,000 gallons of raw fuel and 2,500 gallons of raw two-cycle oil into the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem. (Yes four stroke engines are a big improvement but are still staggeringly worse than cars, see below.) Now, with the U.S. having put severe restrictions on snowmobiling in Yellowstone and many other National Forests, we in Sea to Sky country welcome all to bring their sleds to our valley instead. We also provide several opportunities to use sleds or ATVs on tours provided by local businesses.
We are a welcoming community. But the growing use of and promotion of snowmobiling and ATV use feels like an advertisement that says "We don't get it." The unnecessary and high carbon footprint of backcountry motorized transport feels like a billboard advertisement saying "We don't care that we don't get it." It is not just that all this is completely contradictory to the Whistler 2020 site (which suggests that we in this valley do "get it"). It is also contradictory to common sense if we really want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It looks to us that those driving by with the sleds on the back of a truck totally accept that they don't care about "getting it" and are possibly proud of it. The commercial recreation companies look to us like they are saying "come pollute our valley for your pleasure before it is too late."